Reliving Hillary’s History: Clinton’s Other Tall Tales From Abroad

As Clinton Keeps Rewriting Her Record As The Nation’s Top Diplomat, A Look Back At Some Of Her Foreign Policy Whoppers From The 2008 Campaign Trail


FactCheck.Org: During The 2008 Campaign, Many Of Clinton’s Foreign Policy Claims Were “Exaggerated.”  “We can’t determine how much behind-the-scenes work Clinton did while first lady, and she certainly took an active interest in foreign policy when her husband was president. Moreover, her time as first lady plus her longer Senate career do give Clinton more foreign policy experience than Obama. But the public record of her actions shows that many of Clinton’s foreign policy claims are exaggerated.” (“Hillary’s Adventures Abroad,” FactCheck.Org, 3/25/08)

  • FactCheck.Org: “We Examined Some Of The Specific Examples Of Sen. Clinton’s Experience And Found That Most Of Them Are Weaker Than Advertised.” (“Hillary’s Adventures Abroad,” FactCheck.Org, 3/25/08)

In 2008, Former Clinton Administration State Department Official Greg Craig Authored A Memo On Behalf Of The Obama Campaign Arguing That Clinton Made “Exaggerated Claims” About Her Foreign Policy Credentials. “Obama’s campaign also launched an offensive against Clinton’s claims of a depth of foreign policy experience, using a top aide to Bill Clinton to lead the charge. In a memo titled ‘Senator Clinton’s claim to be experienced in foreign policy: Just words?’ adviser Greg Craig, a former State Department official, called Clinton’s  assertions that she played a role in the Northern Ireland peace process and helped negotiate open borders as part of the Kosovo crisis ‘exaggerated claims.’” (Anne E. Kornblyt and Peter Slevin, “Obama Is Victorious In Mississippi,” The Washington Post, 3/12/08)

  • Memo: “Clinton’s Claims Of Foreign Policy Experience Are Exaggerated.” “When asked to describe her experience, Senator Clinton has cited a handful of international incidents where she says she played a central role. But any fair-minded and objective judge of these claims — i.e., by someone not affiliated with the Clinton campaign — would conclude that Senator Clinton’s claims of foreign policy experience are exaggerated.” (Alex Koppelman, “Obama Camp Targets Clinton Experience Claims,” Salon, 3/11/08)
  • Memo: “There Is No Reason To Believe” That Clinton Was A “Key Player In Foreign Policy At Any Time During The Clinton Administration.” “There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue — not at 3 AM or at any other time of day.” (Alex Koppelman, “Obama Camp Targets Clinton Experience Claims,” Salon, 3/11/08)

On The Campaign Trail, A Ceremonial Greeting On A Trip To Bosnia Evolved Into A Story About A Sniper Attack

In A Campaign 2008 Campaign Speech, Clinton Recounted A Trip To Tuzla, Bosnia, Noting “I Remember Landing Under Sniper Fire. There Was Supposed To Be Some Kind Of Greeting Ceremony At The Airport, But Instead We Just Ran With Our Heads Down.” CLINTON: “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base. But it was a moment of great pride for me to visit our troops, not only in our main base as Tuzla, but also at two outposts where they were serving in so many capacities to deactivate and remove landmines, to hunt and seek out those who had not complied with the Dayton Accords and put down their arms, and to build relationships with the people that might lead to a peace for them and their children.” (Then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Remarks On Iraq, Washington, D.C., 3/17/08)

  • When Pressed On Her Account Of The Bosnia Trip By Reporters, Clinton Initially Responded: “There Was No Greeting Ceremony, And We Basically Were Told To Run To Our Cars. Now, That Is What Happened.” “Immediately after the speech that day, a reporter asked Clinton about remarks from others on the trip who suggested the trip was for photo opportunities rather than foreign policy and she stood by her account of sniper fire. ‘There was no greeting ceremony, and we basically were told to run to our cars. Now, that is what happened,’ she said.” (Then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Remarks On Iraq, Washington, D.C., 3/17/08)

PolitiFact: “But That’s Not What Happened, As Demonstrated By CBS News Video That Shows Clinton Arriving On The Tarmac Under No Visible Duress, And Greeting A Child Who Offers Her A Copy Of A Poem.” “During an introduction to a foreign policy speech on Iraq on March 17, 2008, Sen. Hillary Clinton reminisced about her days as first lady and a trip to Tuzla, Bosnia, she made in March 1996. ‘I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.’ But that’s not what happened, as demonstrated by CBS News video that shows Clinton arriving on the tarmac under no visible duress, and greeting a child who offers her a copy of a poem.”(Angie Drobnic Holan, “Video Shows Tarmac Welcome, No Snipers,” PolitiFact, 3/25/08)

  • The Washington Post Reviewed Nearly 100 News Accounts Of Clinton’s Bosnia Visit And “Not A Single Newspaper Or Television Station Reported Any Security Threat To The First Lady.” “Had Hillary Clinton’s plane come ‘under sniper fire’ in March 1996, we would certainly have heard about it long before now. Numerous reporters, including the Washington Post’s John Pomfret, covered her trip. A review of nearly 100 news accounts of her visit shows that not a single newspaper or television station reported any security threat to the First Lady.” (Michael Dobbs, “Hillary’s Balkan Adventures, Part II,” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, 3/21/08)
  • The Dayton Peace Accords – Which Ended The War In Bosnia And Herzegovina – Were Signed Three Months Before Clinton’s Visit. “We can’t speak to what may or may not have happened on the military transport that delivered Clinton to Bosnia. She is right, though, that she visited a potential combat zone. But what she fails to mention is that the Dayton Peace Accords – which officially ended a year-and-a-half of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina – had been signed in December 1995. So by the time of Clinton’s March 1996 visit, the war itself had been over for three months.”  (“Hillary’s Adventures Abroad,” FactCheck.Org, 3/25/08)

“Chelsea Clinton, Then 16, Accompanied Her Mother On All The Stops; On The Bosnian Leg Of The Tour, They Were Joined By Singer Sheryl Crow And The Comedian Sinbad, Who Came With A Host Of Donated Items, Including A Big Screen TV And Candy Bars, Designed To Boost The Troops’ Morale.” (“Hillary’s Adventures Abroad,” FactCheck.Org, 3/25/08)

  • Comedian Sinbad, Who Accompanied Clinton On The Trip: “I Never Felt I Was In A Dangerous Position.” “Threat of bullets? Sinbad doesn’t remember that, either. ‘I never felt that I was in a dangerous position. I never felt being in a sense of peril, or ‘Oh, God, I hope I’m going to be OK when I get out of this helicopter or when I get out of his tank.’”(Mary Ann Akers, “Sinbad Unloads On Hillary Clinton,” The Washington Post, 3/11/08) 

Clinton Later Said Her Account Was A “Misstatement” And Dismissed The Issue As A “Minor Blip.” “Earlier this afternoon, Sen. Hillary Clinton came to the Daily News and Inquirer building here in Philadelphia — where she’s seeklng the Daily News editorial board endorsement — and I had a chance to ask her about a controversy that’s increasingly dogged her campaign the last few days: Whether she misrepresented the danger of her March 1996 trip to a U.S. military base in Bosnia in an effort to boost her foreign policy credentials. Clinton acknowledged today for the first time that it was a ‘misstatement’ when she said in a major prepared foreign policy speech last week that ‘I remember landing under sniper fire’ but also tried to brush off the entire issue as ‘a minor blip.’” (Will Bunch, “Exclusive: Clinton Acknowledges A ‘Misstatement’ On Bosnia Sniper Fire,” Philadelphia Daily News, 3/25/08)

  • The Obama Campaign “Questioned Whether Clinton Misspoke, Saying Her Comments Came In What Appeared To Be Prepared Remarks.” “A spokesman for rival Barack Obama’s campaign questioned whether Clinton misspoke, saying her comments came in what appeared to be prepared remarks for the Iraq speech. His campaign’s statement included a link to the speech on Clinton’s campaign Web site with her account of running to the cars.” (“Clinton ‘Misspoke’ Over Bosnia Sniper Claims,” The Associated Press, 3/5/08)
  • “Obama Spokesman Tommy Vietor Said In A Written Statement That Clinton’s Bosnia Story ‘Joins A Growing List Of Instances In Which Senator Clinton Has Exaggerated Her Role In Foreign And Domestic Policymaking.’” (“Clinton ‘Misspoke’ Over Bosnia Sniper Claims,” The Associated Press, 3/5/08)
  • PolitiFact: “Yes, Clinton Later Acknowledged That She Was Mistaken, But It’s Hard To Understand How She Could Err On Something So Significant As Whether She Did Or Didn’t Dodge Sniper Bullets. Quite Simply, This Kind Of Hyperbole Deserves Our Harshest Assessment. We Rule Pants On Fire.” (Angie Drobnic Holan, “Video Shows Tarmac Welcome, No Snipers,” PolitiFact, 3/25/08)

Clinton Took Liberties When Describing A Trip To Macedonia She Made As First Lady

In 2008, Clinton Listed A Trip To Macedonia To Negotiate Opening Their Borders For Refugees Fleeing From Kosovo As A Specific Example Of An Occasion When She Was The “Go-To Person” During A Foreign Policy Crisis. CNN’S KIRAN CHETRY: “All of those points are well taken. I was wondering if you could point to a specific crisis where you were the go-to person?” THEN-SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: “Well, you know, there isn’t any way that anyone who has not been president, but you know the administration sent me to war- torn zones. I was the first person from the Clinton administration to go into Bosnia after the Dayton peace accords. You know, I went to Macedonia and sat down with their government and negotiated opening up that border. There are a lot of examples.” (CNN’s “American Morning,” 3/5/08)

  • Clinton: “I Negotiated Open Borders To Let Fleeing Refugees Into Safety From Kosovo.” CLINTON: “I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo. I’ve been standing up against, you know, the Chinese government over women’s rights and standing up for human rights in many different places. I’ve served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And I was the only senator of either party asked to be on an important task force put together by the Pentagon under this administration to figure out what to do with our military going forward.” (CNN’s “American Morning,” 3/5/08)

But Clinton Did Not Actually Negotiate Opening Borders – “Macedonia Had Reopened Its Border To Kosovar Refugees The Day Before Clinton’s Arrival.” “More significantly, Clinton did not in fact ‘negotiate on matters such as opening borders for refugees during the war in Kosovo.’ Macedonia had reopened its border to Kosovar refugees the day before Clinton’s arrival, as has been widely reported.” (“Hillary’s Adventures Abroad,” FactCheck.Org, 3/25/08)

  • Clinton’s Website Touted Her Travel To “The Edge Of The Warzone” Before Her Negotiations, But Clinton Did Not Go To An “Active Combat Zone” And The Risks She Did Take Were “Not Exceptional.” “In a March 5 interview on CNN, Clinton said that she ‘negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo.’ Clinton is referring to her May 14, 1999, trip to Macedonia, which shares a border with Kosovo. According to her Web site, Clinton ‘traveled to the international border on the edge of the war zone’ before meeting with Macedonia’s president and prime minister. We note, first, that Clinton’s claim that the refugee camp was ‘on the edge of a war zone’ gives an exaggerated picture of the risk involved. Traveling to the Kosovo border was more dangerous than remaining in Washington, and the trip did involve some risk. But Clinton did not land in the middle of an active combat zone, and the risks that she did take were not exceptional: Prior visitors to the refugee camp included Richard Gere and Bianca Jagger. For that matter, much of the ‘war’ in Kosovo consisted of NATO airstrikes against the Yugoslav troops who had forced thousands of ethnic Albanians to flee Kosovo, and the nearest NATO ground troops were deployed in Albania, more than 100 miles away from Clinton. ” (“Hillary’s Adventures Abroad,” FactCheck.Org, 3/25/08)

Clinton Embellished Her Role During Northern Ireland’s Peace Negotiations

In 2008, Clinton Listed Her Role In Bringing “Peace To Northern Ireland” As A Foreign Policy Credential. CLINTON: “You know, I was involved for 15 years in, you know, foreign policy and security policy. You know, I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland.” (CNN’s “American Morning,” 3/5/08)

  • Both Clinton And Her Husband Cited Her “Independent Role” In The Peace Negotiation Process As Part Of Foreign Policy Credentials. “Hillary Clinton has repeatedly cited her White House years as key to why she has the ability to serve as president from ‘Day One.’ Both she and her husband have pointed to her ‘independent’ role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland as an example of her foreign policy experience.” (Michael Dobbs, “Clinton And Northern Ireland,” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, 12/31/07)
  • Clinton’s Account Of Her Role In Northern Ireland Grew “More Dramatic With Each Retelling” On The 2008 Campaign Trail. “As the Boston Globe recently noted, her stories of bringing Protestant and Catholic women together have become more dramatic with each retelling. The claim that she brought Catholics and Protestants together ‘for the first time’ seems dubious.” (Michael Dobbs, “Clinton And Northern Ireland,” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, 12/31/07)

While Clinton Did Play A Role In Encouraging Women To Become Involved In The Process, She Was Not Directly Involved In The Peace Negotiations.  “Clinton has taken an interest in the Northern Ireland peace process, visiting the area seven times between 1995 and 2004 – making five of those trips as first lady. Clinton has said that she ‘helped bring peace to Northern Ireland.’ Of course, ‘helped’ is a fairly weak claim, one that could be made by nearly anyone who contributed in a way that didn’t actively hinder the process. Clinton was not directly involved in the peace negotiations that eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement. Her work focused on encouraging Irish women to take a more active role in the male-dominated peace talks. There is universal agreement that Clinton ‘helped.’ The dispute is about how much she helped.” (“Hillary’s Adventures Abroad,” FactCheck.Org, 3/25/08)

  • Senator George Mitchell, Who Led The Negotiations: Clinton Was “Not Involved Directly” In The Conversations That Led To The Peace Agreement. “I just spoke to Senator George Mitchell, the Clinton administration’s leading Northern Ireland peace negotiator, who said that Hillary was ‘not involved directly’ in the diplomatic negotiations that led to the landmark April 1998 Good Friday agreement on power-sharing.” (Michael Dobbs, “Clinton And Northern Ireland,” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, 12/31/07)
  • Mitchell Didn’t Credit Clinton For Her Role In The Negotiation Process Shortly After The Agreement Was Made, Mentioned Clinton “Only In Passing” In His Book About The Negotiations, And Did Not Mention Her When He Accepted The U.N. Peace Prize For His Role In 1998. “Clinton didn’t get much attention at the time. When Mitchell was interviewed on ABC’s This Week shortly after the Good Friday Settlement in April 1998, he had effusive praise for President Clinton but did not mention Hillary Clinton. In his book Making Peace, Mitchell mentioned Hillary Clinton only in passing and he did not mention her in his speech when he was given a United Nations Peace Prize in 1998.” (Bill Adair, “I Helped To Bring Peace To Northern Ireland,” PolitiFact, 3/10/08)
  • Northern Ireland Leader David Trimble – Who Shared A Nobel Peace Prize For The Settlement – Said Clinton’s Claims About Her Role Were A “Wee Bit Silly.” “David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for the settlement, last week told the Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, that Clinton’s claim was ‘a wee bit silly.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to rain on the thing for her, but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player.’” (Bill Adair, “I Helped To Bring Peace To Northern Ireland,” PolitiFact, 3/10/08)

Clinton Overstated Her Travel Schedule As First Lady

Clinton Described The Unofficial White House Policy As “If A Place Was Too Small, Or Too Dangerous, The President Couldn’t Go, So Send The First Lady. That’s Where We Went.” CLINTON: “I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn’t go, so send the First Lady. That’s where we went.” (Then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Remarks On Iraq, Washington, D.C., 3/17/08)

PolitiFact: “Clinton Went To Many Places That Were, Large, Wealthy And Safe.”  “We analyzed Clinton’s international travel based on recently released White House schedules, interviews with traveling companions and scholars, as well as news reports from those trips. We found that Clinton went to many places that were large, wealthy and safe.”  (Angie Drobnic Holan, “She Was No Emissary To The Obscure,” PolitiFact, 3/17/08)

  • “Her Travel Itinerary Is Hardly A Tour Of The World’s Most Obscure Countries. Rather, Her Travels Tended To Emphasize Stable Allies Of The United States, Many Of Which Are Quite Populous.” “They may not be the top NATO allies, but we can’t consider any of these countries to meet the trifecta of small, poor and dangerous. Yes, she did go to places like Iceland (pretty small), Eritrea (poor) and Bosnia (arguably dangerous at the time she visited). But her travel itinerary is hardly a tour of the world’s most obscure countries. Rather, her travels tended to emphasize stable allies of the United States, many of which are quite populous.” (Angie Drobnic Holan, “She Was No Emissary To The Obscure,” PolitiFact, 3/17/08)
  • PolitiFact: “We Find Her Statement To Be Barely True.” “When she traveled with President Clinton, her schedule may have been a little more glamorous, with more time spent in France, England and Russia. But her solo itinerary was no tour of tiny, dangerous places. So we find her statement to be Barely True.” (Angie Drobnic Holan, “She Was No Emissary To The Obscure,” PolitiFact, 3/17/08)